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Zhang named 2015 Simons Fellow

Hong-Kun Zhang, Mathematics and Statistics, has been awarded a 2015 Simons Fellowship for her project titled “Stochastic perspectives of billiard dynamics.” Zhang's was one of 40 fellowships in mathematics by the Simons Foundation this year. The foundation awards up to 40 fellowships in mathematics annually to faculty in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The Fellows Program funds faculty for up to a semester-long research leave from classroom teaching and administrative obligations. Simons Fellows are chosen based on research accomplishment in the five years prior to application and the potential scientific impact of the fellowship.

Bacteria exhibit social behavior, report Griffith, Hill, and Boguslawski

Kevin Griffith, Microbiology, and co-authors Patrick Hill, doctoral candidate, Microbiology, and alumna Kristina Boguslawski describe in Molecular Microbiology how they deciphered bacterial communication to reveal new mechanisms of regulating gene expression in the model bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Bacteria have traditionally been viewed as solitary organisms but scientists now realize that in fact, they exhibit social behavior within groups. Biology News, eScience News, Science Daily,, Daily Hampshire Gazette, News release

Dasgupta finds females in small STEM work groups enhances motivation, participation, aspirations

A research team led by Nilanjana Dasgupta, Psychological and Brain Sciences, have found that when girls and women are able to work in small groups—microenvironments—that are mostly female or that have equal numbers of men and women, they participate more actively, feel less anxious, and enhances career aspirations in engineering, as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences., Times of India, Boston Globe,, WFCR-FM,, PBS Newshour,, Yahoo News India, Inside Higher Ed,,, News release

CNS students win big at the Innovation Challenge

Congrats to the 2015 Innovation Challenge winners, which included three CNS teams. Team FogKicker is Yinyong Li and Chia-Chih Chang, both PhD candidates in polymer science and engineering. They won the $25,000 top prize, a $2,500 Glass Prize, and the $250 Audience Choice Prize, and were named to the MassChallenge Fast Track. Team NanoSense is Ngoc Le and Gulen Yesilbag, both PhD candidates in chemistry. They won the $15,000 second prize and a $2,500 Glass Prize. Team DeepPap is Venkatesh Murthy, PhD candidate in computer science, and Pavitra Chikkegowda, master's degree candidate in animal science. They won $5,000.

Coldest ever winter in New England, says Rawlins

Michael A. Rawlins, Geosciences, and manager, the Climate Systems Research Center, told WWLP-TV 22 that the first three months of 2015 were the coldest “in several hundred years across southern New England," and the coldest on record for Amherst, Providence, Hartford, and Worcester. Also WBZ-TV 4.

Hazen wins Whiting Foundation grant

Samuel Hazen, Biology, has received a grant from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation. The Whiting Foundation awards fellowships to present and prospective teachers, particularly those on the college or university level, to enable them to study abroad or at a location away from their primary one in order to improve and enhance the quality of their instruction.

Hydropeaking loses 10 percent of water permanently, report Yellen and Boutt

In the first-of-its-kind study of the environmental effects of hydropeaking—releasing water at hydropower dams to meet peak daily electricity demand—Brian Yellen, PhD candidate, and David Boutt, both Geosciences, report their unexpected findings that about 10 percent of released water may be permanently lost, making that water unavailable to downstream users and wildlife, as published in Hydrological Processes. Terra Daily,, Science Newsline, Environmental Monitor, News release

First three months of 2015 in New England were coldest in hundreds of years, says Rawlins

Michael A. Rawlins, Geosciences and manager, the Climate Systems Research Center, says the first three months of 2015 were the coldest “in several hundred years across southern New England.” Republican

DeLuca proves extraordinary songbird overwater migration

William V. DeLuca, Environmental Conservation, and colleagues report “irrefutable evidence” that a tiny, boreal forest songbird known as the blackpoll warbler departs each fall from New England and eastern Canada to migrate nonstop in a direct line over the Atlantic Ocean to Venezuela and Columbia. The researchers used solar geolocators, as reported in Biology Letters. This is one of the longest nonstop overwater flights ever recorded for a songbird, and finally confirms what has long been believed to be one of the most extraordinary migratory feats on the planet.

New York Times, Science Friday, Sheboygan Press, The Star, Boston Globe, Reuters, Nature World Report, India Today, Independent Online, Pioneer News, Tech Times, Irish Examiner, Belfast Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Japan Times, National Geographic,, Science Daily, The New Zealand Herald, Afghanistan Sun, CBS News, South China Morning Post, The Record, Republican, PBS Newshour, Washington Post, Yahoo News, Mother Nature Network, Voice of America, Bird Watching Daily, Market Business News, WBUR-FM, Sydney Morning Herald,, Borneo Bulletin, Manila Bulletin, Yakima Herald Republic, Birdwatch magazine, The Scientist, Public Radio International, Deccan Chronicle, News release

Petersen receives Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring

President Obama has named Sandra Petersen, Veterinary and Animal Sciences and director, STEM Diversity Institute, as one of 14 individuals and one organization to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. She will receive her award at a White House ceremony later this year. Since 2003 Petersen has served as executive director and a mentor for the Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, a 15-institution alliance focused on increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups who earn doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Calzetti and Crosby named Conti fellows

Daniela Calzetti, Astronomy, and Alfred J. Crosby, Polymer Science and Engineering, have been awarded 2015-16 Samuel F. Conti fellowships. Selection is based on demonstrably outstanding accomplishments in research and creative activity as well as the potential for continued excellence and includes $3,500 and a year’s leave of absence to concentrate on activities related to graduate education, research, creative work, and scholarly attainment.

Bermudez profiled in Chemical and Engineering News

Harry Bermudez, Polymer Science and Engineering, was profiled in Chemical and Engineering News.

Jackson featured in about salamander crossings

Scott Jackson, Environmental Conservation, was interviewed by about the tunnels under Henry Street in North Amherst that allows salamanders to cross the roads safely. Jackson was deeply involved in the creation of the tunnels in 1987.

Massachusetts is top state for college graduates finding STEM jobs, says Georgetown study

Massachusetts is the top state for college graduates for finding jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a Georgetown University report, said WWLP-TV 22. Two UMass Amherst students said the study gave them confidence they would find jobs after graduation.

LPRC's Lam reports largest tracking study of Pacific Ocean striped marlin

Chi Hin “Tim” Lam of the Large Pelagics Research Center, with colleagues, reported the preferred habitat of striped marlin in the Pacific Ocean, using direct observations collected by satellite tags, in the largest study to track this valuable commercial and recreational fish, as published in Fisheries Research. Science Newsline,, Boston Herald, Santa Cruz Sentinel, WSHM-TV 3, San Francisco Chronicle, Times-Union, Herald Tribune, Science Daily, The Fish Site, News release

LPRC research cited in National Fisherman article about spotter pilots

The research of the Large Pelagics Research Center (LPRC) assessing of Atlantic bluefin tuna was featured in the March 2015 issue of National Fisherman. Using spotter pilots was a tremendous help in determining the size and location of schools in bluefin tuna in the Atlantic, says director Molly Lutcavage, Environmental Conservation.

Crosby and Irschick featured in Nature about nature-based synthetic coatings and textures

Alfred Crosby, Polymer Science and Engineering, and Duncan Irschick, Biology, co-inventors of Geckskin, were featured in a article about synthetic coatings and textures adapted from lizards, ivy, and other natural materials, to enhance everyday materials.

Hollingsworth interviewed by WGGB-TV 40 in story about lack of mosquito control district in western Mass.

Craig Hollingsworth, UMass Extension, was interviewed by WGGB-TV 40 in a story about the lack of a mosquito control district in western Massachusetts.

Cooke elected to board of directors for Southern California Earthquake Center

Michele L. Cooke, Geosciences, has been elected to the board of directors for the Southern California Earthquake Center.

Testing for endocrine-disrupting chemicals is weak and ineffective, Zoeller says

Thomas Zoeller, Biology, tells Endocrine Today that the methods used to test endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment are weak and that testing hasn’t significantly changed since the 1970s. Zoeller also argues that federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are failing to identify how endocrine-disrupting chemicals work or how to measure their toxicity.

Jung interviewed about the difficulty of predicting turfgrass disease this spring

Geunhwa Jung, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, is quoted extensively in Golf Course Industry, saying that the long, warm fall followed by a severe cold and snowy winter make it difficult to predict whether dollar spot, the turfgrass disease, will be a major problem this spring.

Cooke, Madden, and Hatem use kaolin to explain fault evolution

Michele L. Cooke, postdoctoral fellow Elizabeth H. Madden, and Alex E. Hatem '14 MS, all Geosciences, have explained fault evolution near fault bends such as along California’s San Andreas Fault in greater detail than ever before with experiments using kaolin, or china clay, prepared so its strength scales to that of the Earth’s crust when confined in a clay box. This research is expected to help scientists more accurately predict earthquake hazards and allow them to better understand how Earth evolved, as reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research. R & D magazine, Space Daily,, Science Daily, Tech Times, Science Newsline, News release

Schnell named 2015 Spotlight Scholar

Danny Schnell, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been named a Spotlight Scholar, which honors UMass Amherst faculty members who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in research, scholarship or creative activity. An internationally-known expert in plant physiology, photosynthesis, and plant biochemistry, Schnell sees a time in the not-so-distant future when automobiles will run solely on electricity—but not airplanes. So he applies his knowledge of plant photosynthesis to develop seed crop oil that could be the sustainable aviation fuel of the future.

Lutcavage documents leatherback turtles’ navigation abilities with GPS satellite tags

Molly Lutcavage, Environmental Conservation, and director, the Large Pelagic Research Center (LPRC), and her former doctoral students Kara Dodge and Benjamin Galuardi have documented leatherback turtles’ remarkable navigation abilities with state-of-the-art, GPS-linked satellite tags in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. They believe this is the first analysis of migratory orientation in adult and subadult leatherbacks. New York Times, Boston Globe, Science Daily, Tech Times, Science Newsline, The Conversation, Maritime Global News,, Star Tribune, Republican

Bushel and Powers win UMass Amherst Alumni Association annual awards

Pierre R. Bushel ’84 of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been given the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award and Sally Powers, Psychological and Brain Sciences and associate dean, faculty and research, has been given the 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award. Bushel has made an exemplary career out of toxicogenomics research. Powers is internationally recognized for research on depression in adolescents and young adults.